The Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina has rendered a first instance verdict sentencing Cerim Novalic to seven years in prison for war crimes against civilians committed in the Konjic area.
"After having considered all the evidence the Trial Chamber determined, beyond reasonable doubt, that Novalic committed war crimes against civilians as described in the indictment filed by the Prosecution of Bosnia and Herzegovina," Judge Stanisa Gluhajic said, pronouncing the first instance verdict.
By the verdict Novalic was found guilty, as a former member of the Army of Bosnia and Herzegovina, of having raped a female person in Dzepa village, Konjic municipality, in September 1992.
Indictee Novalic did not attend the pronouncement of the verdict. The Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina rendered a decision, ordering him into custody, and he will be sent to a competent detention unit.
Ismet Mehic, the indictee's defence attorney, said Novalic failed to come to the pronouncement of the verdict because he was not feeling well. According to the current law, a verdict can be pronounced in the absence of the indictee.
"On an undetermined date in September 1992 indictee Novalic and another unidentified soldier came to Saran's family house in Dzepa village, looking for some person. The unidentified soldier stayed in the house basement, together with Stanko Saran, while the indictee took his wife to the first floor and raped her," Judge Gluhajic said.
The verdict says that Novalic forced Borka Saran to have sexual intercourse with him. He ordered her to take her clothes off. When she refused to do this, he ripped her clothed off, pushed her on a sofa and raped her.
Explaining the verdict, Judge Gluhajic said that the injured party had known the indictee from before, as he lived in a village near Dzepa village and they used to take the same bus every day.
"The injured party recognized the indictee when he came to her house that night to rape her, because the night was bright and there was moonlight. The Trial Chamber decided to accept this statement, as it was confirmed by other witnesses," Gluhajic said.
Gluhajic said that when deciding on the sentence the Trial Chamber was governed by both aggravating and mitigating circumstances, adding that Novalis was 20 years old at the time, he does not have a criminal record and his financial status is poor. In addition, the Chamber assessed the level of the indictee's criminal responsibility and his behavior after the commission of the crime.
"Considering the mitigating circumstances, the Court reduced the prescribed sentence of 10 years to seven years in prison. We consider the sentence is proportional to the crime and its consequences. We also consider it serves the purpose," Gluhajic said.
By the first instance verdict the injured party was advised to file a legal suit, while Novalic was exempt from paying the costs of the criminal proceedings.
The parties have the right to appeal the verdict.
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